Archbishop Malcolm McMahon helped St Richard’s, Skelmersdale kick off its 150th anniversary celebrations with a special Mass on Friday 19 June. Archbishop Malcolm was assisted by Bishop Vincent Malone and a number of returning former priests at the Mass, which was attended by around 250 people – including Rosie Cooper MP and Nikki Hennessey, the mayor of West Lancashire.
To mark the anniversary, two new stained glass windows were unveiled during the Mass. One, in memory of St Richard, had been paid for by a legacy as well as donations and fundraising by parishioners; the other, dedicated to Our Lady Queen of Peace, was paid for by the local engineering college of the same name.
In his homily, Archbishop Malcolm looked back at the history of the church and amused the congregation by reading out some of the decrees of previous times: "Priests who clipped or slurred their words by rushing were to be suspended. The clergy should wear their proper dress and not imitate what the lay people wore. They were not allowed to wear their hair long or have romantic entanglements."
Times have changed but as the Archbishop noted: "We remain constant in accepting the apostles' teaching and prayer. Our foundation in faith always remains the same." At the end of the Mass, Archbishop Malcolm sealed a time capsule containing artefacts and documents donated by parishioners and the Catholic schools in the town and asked that it remain closed until 2065, which will be the 200th anniversary of the church.
Father Mike Thompson, parish priest for the town, said: "This is a fantastic day for the parish. The changes over the last 150 years have been amazing. Following the opening of the church, St Richard’s school soon opened next door. We've uncovered some interesting documents, including a punishment book, from those early days as well as some early school photographs which were on display during the celebrations. Now, 150 years later, we have three churches in the town, five primary schools and one secondary school and a very vibrant church community – something well worth celebrating."
The church on Liverpool Road, Skelmersdale was designed by the Pugin family of architects. Parishioners enjoyed a full weekend of celebrations, with a buffet after the evening Mass on Friday 19th and the next day a music hall-style social event at the Comrades Club, which was followed by a Sunday afternoon picnic in the parish orchard.